Bryan Matsumoto is a graduate of the San Gabriel Mountain Forever Leadership Academy and a volunteer for SGMF who joined a group of coalition members on a trip to Washington, D.C. to advocate for protection of our national monuments. Below, he reflects on the experience.

What Surprised Me
I never imagined my first visit to D.C. would be to lobby our members of Congress! It was powerful being in DC in this Trump era… to stand in the Lincoln Memorial and read the conviction of his words was inspiring — leadership in the face of injustice. Government no longer feels mysterious or distant now that I’ve seen how it works in person; it’s just talking person to person and making a case. It shows me that we the people do have immense power, but only if we flex it en masse.

What We Talked About
I was there to help tell our reps why we urgently need more Federal resources to connect our park-starved communities to healthy, nature-rich living.

I shared that I grew up in Temple City in view of the San Gabriel Mountains, but no one took me there — like many people today. Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley was an anonymous suburban experience. It was pleasant, but everywhere else felt more special. It wasn’t ’til friends took me hiking years later, to Sturtevant Falls, that I discovered… there’s magic back there! Discovering the mountains changed my life. We have such special places: beautiful waterfalls, crystal blue rivers and shady canyons so close to home, and they provide peace and relief from the urban pressures of LA. In this political climate, they are more vital than ever for us to recharge in nature, and break the cycle of Nature-deficit disorder.

As a park designer, I shared how I’ve worked on the Puente Hills Landfill Park Master Plan, and numerous parks in our park-poor County, and how a proposed National Recreation Area designation would multiply and maximize the County’s investments to bring park space to our residents.

What I’m Still Thinking About
Connecting people to nature has become my purpose because someone introduced me – and paying it forward is the only way to grow future environmental stewards. “You can’t protect what you don’t love, and you can’t love what you don’t know.”

It’s really motivating working with SGMF because we’re getting real results! Our San Gabriel Mountains have been neglected and underfunded for many years. I had never seen a single ranger out there and now, thanks to the National Monument, we have young, diverse field rangers educating families by the San Gabriel River. We have new, attractive multilingual signs. When people see that we care, they care. We’re pushing and partnering with the Forest Service and our public agencies, to improve public access and outreach, and to innovate. We’re advocating for Transit to Trail shuttles to connect the gaps between our communities and the outdoors. Our Leadership Academy graduates are now rising environmental leaders in our region. It’s an exciting time.

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